SUNY Board of Trustees appoints new chancellor

John B. King, Jr. has been appointed the 15th chancellor of SUNY. (Photo via The Education Trust).

The SUNY Board of Trustee announced on Monday that John B. King, Jr. has been appointed the 15th chancellor of SUNY, according to a release by SUNY.

“I am humbled and honored to accept the position of chancellor and to advance Gov. Kathy Hochul’s vision to make SUNY the best statewide system of public higher education in our nation,” King said. “Public education quite literally saved my life when I lost both of my parents at a young age, and I have dedicated my professional career ever since to ensuring that every student has access to the academic opportunities that they need and deserve. I look forward to working with all members of our campus communities, lawmakers, and stakeholders to bring SUNY to new heights and maximize its potential.”

King will officially take his seat as SUNY chancellor in January. He will replace interim chancellor Deborah F. Stanley, a position she has held since December of last year. Stanley assumed the position when Jim Malatras resigned as chancellor back in early December 2021.

King brings decades of experience as a leader in “education administration and policy at the local, state, and national levels.” 

“He has championed expanding access to high-quality, affordable education in recognition of the transformative power it holds for students from all walks of life,” the release noted.

SUNY provided a background of King’s career and accomplishments:

King is currently the president of The Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that promotes high academic achievement for all students in early childhood, K-12 education, and higher education. Prior to his appointment to that post in 2017, Chancellor King served as U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama, who called him "an exceptionally talented educator." While serving in this cabinet-level post, King worked to simplify the financial aid process, oversaw federal investments in evidence-based strategies to increase college completion, and advocated for the president’s America’s College Promise proposal, which called for creating a federal-state partnership to make attendance at community colleges free and also investing in scaled wrap-around services to support students on the path to academic success. 

From 2011 to the beginning of 2015 when he joined the Obama Administration, King served as New York State’s first African American and first Puerto Rican education commissioner. He worked in this position to leverage federal Perkins funding to invest in a statewide initiative connecting K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and employers to tailor high school curriculum to meet the needs of a modern-day workforce – an effort he has expressed to the Board that he hopes to continue and expand on as chancellor.

King is a life-long educator and public servant who began his career teaching high school Social Studies in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Boston, Massachusetts. While in Boston, he co-founded a middle school specifically intended to serve a high-poverty student population that became one of the highest performing urban public middle schools in the state and eventually grew into the successful Uncommon Schools network, which he co-managed.

Chancellor King served from January 2015 to December 2015 as Delegated Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, which included overseeing all preschool through 12th grade policies with a focus on improving equity and closing achievement gaps. He also oversaw cross-agency collaboration for President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, seeking to address opportunity gaps experienced by young men and boys of color. In the fall of 2015, President Obama tapped King to serve as Education Secretary beginning in January 2016, and he was later confirmed by the Senate in a 49-40 vote.

King holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard University, a Master of Arts in the teaching of social studies from Columbia University's Teachers College, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and a Doctor of Education degree in educational administrative practice from Columbia University's Teachers College. He was a 1995 Truman Scholar and received the James Madison Memorial Fellowship for secondary-level teaching of American history, American government, and social studies.

Chancellor King was elected to serve on the Harvard University Board of Overseers in 2019, is a Vice Chair of the Board of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and also serves on the boards of the Robin Hood Foundation, the Century Foundation, and MDRC.

Among many awards, King has received the Ann S. Kheel Award from the New York Urban League, the Eugene M. Lang Lifetime Achievement Award from the "I Have A Dream" Foundation; the New York Immigration Coalition Builders of the "New" New York Award; and the Robin Hood Foundation Heroes Award; as well as honorary degrees from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the University of Memphis, and LeMoyne College.

“John King is an extremely smart, capable, steady, strong and fair educator. He’s just what SUNY needs,” said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer.